Tonight sees the return to these shores of Arrested Development, one time massive stars of the hip-hop scene and now a driving force on the rap underground. We spoke to Speech about their latest album Strong and the state of the hip-hop nation today…
The album seems to have an overwhelming feeling of anger and frustration to it….
We definitely feel more frustration on this record, it felt appropriate to me to show that now. I haven’t heard a lot of hip-hop express an anger at the way artists have ignored all the issues of the world, all of the pain of the last fifteen years. No-one has expressed how frustrating that feels for the rest of us. That was one of the reasons we named this record Strong. We’re being strong people by saying something, by speaking up when apathy has been much of the norm.
Was it ever a truly political medium though?
Hip-hop has been very political in the past with people like Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, X Clan, even Run DMC and LL Cool J made their statements. The diversity that was always there has been taken out of existence, especially from a mainstream point of view. Corporations buying each other out have made the music industry so small as far as who makes the decisions to sign what acts goes and who decides to play what videos or records on the radio. It makes it very hard for diverse opinions to get heard.
Is that to do with hip-hop’s unprecedented success in recent years?
People tend to think that hip-hop is successful now and wasn’t in the past but the truth is we sold five million records, Eminmen hasn’t done that with his new record. Public Enemy sold millions and millions of albums, the Fugees sold millions. The likes of Jay Z who have diversified are way richer than any of us were but hip-hop truly has become a victim of a mentality that we’re supposed to be CEOs or moguls instead of artists.
Is that not a good thing?
In general it’s positive to take more control of your career, the problem is that they’re using the exact same prototype as the corporations that were working against us. We’ve just started to work against ourselves, exploit our own artists and only think about the bottom line of money. It’s about what sells the most rather than what’s the whole point of hip-hop, where are we trying to go, how will we stay creative. It’s a different landscape to me.
Where does that leave you as an artist?
It leaves us pretty frustrated. We have to find our audience, it’s not as easy as it once was, but a huge amount of people are tired of what’s going on too. When they find out that we’re touring and making new records they’re encouraged and want to get a breath of fresh air. At our shows we have younger fans and people who have known us from the start, they just want to hear something with a little more meat on it.
How hard was it for the band to move on after the success of your debut?
Extremely hard. People become used to what they know and what people wanted from Arrested Development didn’t necessarily match up with what we wanted to give. The beautiful thing about time is that it puts everything into perspective. We’ve had some struggling times but now people have let go of the time capsule of the early nineties and, although they love that music, they’re ready and willing to hear something new from us.
How is it for you now?
We look at ourselves like a family. We’ve been through a lot together and really are closer than ever. All of our individual personalities have become the spice for this group, we pretty much don’t agree on anything except that we want to make great music.
Arrested Development play Crawdaddy in Dublin tomorrow night (Wednesday 20th), not the Button Factory as originally advertised.